I sit in my home office, and in the next room sits my wife in her home office. I’m creating my mobile games, and she’s creating her mobile games. I have my company, PlayGearz, and she has her company, LavaMind. Who could ask for a better marriage?
My wife and I love making games, and in any good relationship, it’s nice to help one another out but not totally overlap. Good fences make good neighbors, and we each have our own domains.
As I’m working away at Yumby Smash, my latest game, I’ll hear my wife shout from the next room, “Steve, come here! What do you think of this button?”
And I’ll shout back, “No, you come here and take a look this animation!” And so it goes, all day long.
When our boys come home from school, they join the fun. My wife will shout, “Boys come test my game! I want you to see this new feature I added.” And I’ll shout, “No, come test my game! I created a whole new level for you to try!”
Our boys usually reply, “Aaaah, I can’t. I have too much homework.”
“Your homework can wait,” my wife and I cry in unison. “This is more important!”
“We wouldn’t trade our lifestyle and jobs for anything in the world.”
Our boys, being such nice guys, relent and settle into their roles as QA department, internal focus group, and game critics. We even had them creating levels for mygame Yumby Smash over the summer, using our level editing software. You’ll see their names in the credits, which gives them bragging rights at school.
I have to admit that I pale in comparison to my wife. She’s a one woman powerhouse. While I work with a team of two engineers, one artist, one animator and one composer and sound designer, she does everything herself. That’s right. She does 100 percent of the game design, coding, UI/UX, animation, and sound design, plus the back-end database and server.
The irony is that I was the one who majored in Electrical Computer Engineering in college, while she studied English Literature. Many years later, I don’t code at all, and she’s a self-taught wizard that I can only admire from afar.
Naomi’s first game, Beetle Bounce received incredible reviews and was featured on both Amazon Kindle and Nook. Her second game, Jackpot Words, is about to be released on every major platform.
My games haven’t done badly either. Yumby Smash and Yumby Toss have garnered great reviews and received over half a million downloads and counting. We hope to break a million by the end of March, 2013. Our guiding principle is that you can’t build a truly great game unless you put 100 percent of yourself into the creative process. We never take shortcuts and will do whatever’s required to make the games come alive.
Here’s some of our secret sauce. We leverage tools and platforms to make ourselves more productive. First off, we use Corona Labs SDK and Unity 3D to develop our games. My wife prefers Corona Labs SDK, while I’m a Unity 3D guy.
These development tools allow us to easily port our games to multiple platforms: iOS, Android, Kindle, NOOK, and so forth. They also save time in coding by adding a lot of features, like physics engines and various plug-ins.
On the backend, we use cloud services. My wife prefers a combination of WebFaction and dotCloud for hosting her PHP and MySQL database, while I’m a fan of Amazon’s Web Services.
On the art side, both of us create our animations in Flash and then have them converted into images that we can animate programmatically. Again, my wife does it all herself, while I rely on artists to execute my vision.
When it comes to business, I tend to outshine my wife. I’m always looking for the next opportunity, while she is heads down at her desk, coding away. For example, I was thrilled when I heard Chillingo (EA) and Samsung had teamed up in the shape of 100% Indie to offer indie developers, like us, 100 percent of the revenue for any game we submit to the Samsung App Store under their new initiative.
Naturally I jumped at the chance and pulled my wife along with me. The guys at 100% Indie have been exceptionally nice and helpful, and we have high hopes for the exposure this will bring us. It’s always nice to be bigger fish in a smaller pond.
As indie developers, it’s hard to compete with giant companies that have millions to spend on marketing their games. It’s so easy to get lost in the noise. But we keep trying!
Most people don’t realize just how much work it is to be an indie developer and create a game that can compete with the major publishers. We work our tails off, even sacrificing weekends and holidays. But doing it together as a family makes it more fun. After all, my wife and kids can’t say I’m working too hard because I’m usually the one who wants to get out on weekends, while they want to stay home. My wife wants to get more work done, while my kids just want to play games.
When all is said and done, we wouldn’t trade our lifestyle and jobs for anything in the world. It’s all in the family!